The Indonesian government has been forced to "temporarily" close Komodo Island, home of the Komodo dragon, the world's largest living lizard, from January 2020.

The announcement comes after nine men allegedly stole 41 dragons and other endangered birds and wild cats.

Komodo dragons are sold worldwide for about $35,000 each, making smuggling the animal an attractive business for poachers.

In March, Indonesian authorities stopped the illegal sale of five komodo dragons on Facebook.

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The lizards are in high demand likely because of their skin. Komodo leather is used in the fashion and furniture industries. The animal's claws and teeth are also sold to be used in jewellery.

The Indonesian government has now announced the island will be closed to all tourists from January next year.

The island is part of Komodo National Park, a 173,300-hectare Unesco World Heritage Site.

Komodo Airport has an average of 10,000 visitors a month, making it a popular tourist hotspot in Indonesia.